Political Animal


March 08, 2013 9:20 AM Reince Priebus’ 50-State Strategy

By Ed Kilgore

For those of us old enough to remember the Republican Electoral College Lock of the 1980s, or even Howard Dean’s plea for a Democratic “50-State Strategy” seven years ago, it was interesting to read these words from Republican National Chairman Reince Priebus via an interview with the Des Moines Register:

If the GOP is going to win presidential elections, candidates can’t compete just in Iowa and the seven other early states, the party’s national chairman said during a visit here Thursday.
Reince Priebus, chairman of the Republican National Committee, thinks Republicans shouldn’t assume any state will be blue forever.
“The issue is that in the past, it wasn’t just Iowa and New Hampshire and South Carolina. It used to be that we fought over states like Washington and California. We actually fought in the Northeast. And we were winning in places like Delaware and New Jersey. Now we’re not winning any of those places.
“So my point is we’re not going to improve as a party if we’re holding a national election in eight states,” he said in an interview with The Des Moines Register.

This all sounds healthy, until you realize that of the first eight states holding Republican nominating contests in 2012, five were in general election battleground states (Iowa, New Hampshire, Florida, Nevada and Colorado) and a sixth (Minnesota) was in a near-battleground state. Michigan, Ohio and Virginia were not far behind.

The problem wasn’t that Republicans were focused on atypical or unimportant states; it’s that the nature of the Republican primary/caucus electorate and the candidate field drove the contest into far-right territory the ticket had trouble escaping during the general election. Consider this: Rick Santorum came within a few thousand votes in Michigan, one of those blue-tinged states Priebus is talking about fighting for, and in Ohio, the ultimate battleground state, of throwing the whole nomination contest into doubt and perhaps chaos.

So there’s your problem, Mr. Chairman, if you dare admit ideology rather than geography is worth reconsidering.

Ed Kilgore is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly. He is managing editor for The Democratic Strategist and a senior fellow at the Progressive Policy Institute. Find him on Twitter: @ed_kilgore.


  • c u n d gulag on March 08, 2013 9:48 AM:

    So, a "50 State Strategy," eh Reince Priebus?

    Well, sure, I know you can find Confederates in all 50 states, but doubt you can find enough of them to make all 50 states Confederate.

    A better, and more realistic plan, might be to start cloning all of your fear-and-hate-filled old white Christian racists, misogynists, xenophobes, and/or homophobes.

    I'd wish you luck - but I'd be about as sincere as a Republican saying he hopes that the nations economy improves in the next few years, or hoping that there's no major terrorist attack in a city like NY, or SF, or Los Angeles.

  • T2 on March 08, 2013 9:51 AM:

    What Prince Riebus is really talking about is a 50 state RIGGING policy. The can't win on ideology and they know it, that's why states are trying to rig Electoral College votes and doing various voter suppression schemes.

  • Fritz Strand on March 08, 2013 9:51 AM:

    Don't pretend this is a problem only for Republicans.

    Our last liberal President was Johnson. Since the primary process has taken over Democrats have elected two blue dogs from the south and our current moderate mid 80's Republican. All of them seem to think what is best for the Democratic party is to dismantle The New Deal.

    Both parties need to at least re-establish some vetting process before the races start and when get yet another 'New Tide'.

  • smartalek on March 08, 2013 10:12 AM:

    The good Chairman Priebus' name seems chosen by central casting to serve as a figure of unending fun for all.
    But they may have outdone themselves, as it provides both a Rorshach (that's "inkblot" to any winger trolls) and an IQ test for wags on both sides.
    The commenters over at RedState (I read 'em so you don't have to) appear to like calling him Prince Riebus, which is, I suppose, apt enough, but not overwhelmingly clever.
    But I really wish I could remember which commenter (and where -- I don't think it was here, tho) was the one who pointed out that if, you disemvowel the good Chairman's name (devoutly to be wished, 'n' all that), what you get is:
    Rnc Pr-bs.
    Which is both clever indeed and absolutely accurate.

  • smartalek on March 08, 2013 10:21 AM:

    Um, I really do know how to spell "Rorschach."
    Even us gud spellars sometimes maek typoes.

  • Domage on March 08, 2013 10:28 AM:

    And, once again, the problem for the GOP is that the Teahadists control the primary process. As long as that's the case, the party can only field candidates who are being dragged ever farther to the right. And THAT is what will eventually doom them to a 27% presence in national politics.

  • smartalek on March 08, 2013 10:34 AM:

    Fritz Strand makes an excellent point.
    Since our President's more recent liberalish stances have earned him much higher ratings than any he got while playing Publican-Lite, and since, with certain notable exceptions (and those generally after multi-year propaganda campaigns in the corporate "news" media), traditionally liberal positions massively outpoll conservative ones, why the heck is it that such positions can find zero apparent expression in Presidential elections, and almost zero in Congress?
    This is not a rhetorical question -- I'd really love a credible, coherent, and cogent answer (or set thereof), if anyone can provide same.
    TIA for any help.

  • smartalek on March 08, 2013 10:48 AM:

    From your mouth to G-d's ears, as my tribe likes to put it, Domage.
    But this observation dovetails with my plaint, above.
    The [usually wrong] conventional wisdom would have it that the two national parties are each captive of their more extreme elements, because that's who disproportionately turns out in the primaries.
    But that's clearly not the case with Democrats, who also keep fielding candidates who drift ever right-ward.
    And it can't all be the rigging of the primary process by the DLC-heavy CentCom types in Warshington -- in '08, the field was already down to centrist Hillary vs centrist Barack long before the votes of the Party's "super-delegates" even came into play.
    So WTF??

  • c u n d gulag on March 08, 2013 11:02 AM:

    You're right - voters DO tend to trust the Democrats more on almost all issues.

    But, they remain unconvinced, and can't go along with those policies, since they're immediately labeled as "Liberal" by the GOP, and so they go with the GOP.

    And not only because the word "Liberal" now is considered to be as bad as "child-f*cker," but also since the GOP bullsh*ts better, the GOP can convince themselves of their own bullsh*t, and the GOP can spew that bullsh*t with absolute conviction.
    Theirs, is a Manichean, black v. white, right v. wrong, God v. Satan, world view.
    No shading at all.

    And while the GOP lies, and does so with conviction, the Democrats tell people the truth, which is that, Here's what we think will happen, It's liable to happen. Channces are great that it will happen. But we can't guarantee it."
    Democrats are realists. No result can EVER be guaranteed!

    Read the first part of W.B. Yeats great poem, "The Second Coming," - he says it much better than I ever could:
    "Turning and turning in the widening gyre
    The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
    Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
    Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
    The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
    The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
    The best lack all conviction, while the worst
    Are full of passionate intensity."

    That last line, explains why we can never have nice things.

    And here's the second part of that great poem, which is
    truly horrifying:
    "Surely some revelation is at hand;
    Surely the Second Coming is at hand.
    The Second Coming! Hardly are those words out
    When a vast image out of Spiritus Mundi
    Troubles my sight: somewhere in sands of the desert
    A shape with lion body and the head of a man,
    A gaze blank and pitiless as the sun,
    Is moving its slow thighs, while all about it
    Reel shadows of the indignant desert birds.
    The darkness drops again; but now I know
    That twenty centuries of stony sleep
    Were vexed to nightmare by a rocking cradle,
    And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,
    Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?"

    Something tells me that "rough beast" has already been born, and is currently in the Republican Party.

  • oldgulph on March 08, 2013 7:53 PM:

    Republican legislators who want to split state electoral votes in states that have recently voted Democratic in presidential elections, do not want to split electoral votes in states that recently voted Republican in presidential elections.

    Obvious partisan machinations like these should add support for the National Popular Vote movement. If the party in control in each state is tempted every 2, 4, or 10 years (post-census) to consider rewriting election laws and redistrict with an eye to the likely politically beneficial effects for their party in the next presidential election, then the National Popular Vote system, in which all voters across the country are guaranteed to be politically relevant and treated equally, is needed now more than ever.

    The National Popular Vote bill would guarantee the Presidency to the candidate who receives the most popular votes in the country.

    Every vote, everywhere, would be politically relevant and equal in every election. Every vote would be included in the state counts and national count.

    The candidate with the most popular votes in the country would get the 270+ electoral votes from the enacting states. That guarantees the candidate with the most popular votes in all 50 states and DC wins the presidency.

    The bill uses the power given to each state in the Constitution to change how they award their electoral votes for President. Historically, virtually all of the major changes in the method of electing the President, including ending the requirement that only men who owned substantial property could vote and 48 current state-by-state winner-take-all laws, have been by state legislative action.

    In Gallup polls since 1944, only about 20% of the public has supported the current system of awarding all of a state's electoral votes to the presidential candidate who receives the most votes in each separate state (with about 70% opposed and about 10% undecided). Support for a national popular vote is strong among Republicans, Democrats, and Independent voters, as well as every demographic group in virtually every state surveyed in recent polls in recent closely divided Battleground states: CO - 68%, FL - 78%, IA 75%, MI - 73%, MO - 70%, NH - 69%, NV - 72%, NM - 76%, NC - 74%, OH - 70%, PA - 78%, VA - 74%, and WI - 71%; in Small states (3 to 5 electoral votes): AK - 70%, DC - 76%, DE - 75%, ID - 77%, ME - 77%, MT - 72%, NE - 74%, NH - 69%, NV - 72%, NM - 76%, OK - 81%, RI - 74%, SD - 71%, UT - 70%, VT - 75%, WV - 81%, and WY - 69%; in Southern and Border states: AR - 80%, KY- 80%, MS - 77%, MO - 70%, NC - 74%, OK - 81%, SC - 71%, TN - 83%, VA - 74%, and WV - 81%; and in other states polled: AZ - 67%, CA - 70%, CT - 74%, MA - 73%, MN - 75%, NY - 79%, OR - 76%, and WA - 77%. Americans believe that the candidate who receives the most votes should win.

    The bill has passed 31 state legislative chambers in 21 states with 243 electoral votes. The bill has been enacted by 9 jurisdictions with 132 electoral votes - 49% of the 270 necessary to go into effect.

    Follow National Popular Vote on Facebook via NationalPopularVoteInc